Tag Archives: Liberal Biennial Convention 2012

Jonathan Scott: A Progressive & Responsible Party

During and since the Ottawa convention, there has been a lot of soul searching about what it means to be a Liberal. I realise I keep returning to this question. What is the soul of the Liberal Party? And how will the Party fulfill the goals of its soul?

It’s an existential question, to be sure, but one that challenges all political parties.

We saw such soul searching in full force at the NDP leadership debate in Halifax this past weekend. Thomas Mulcair sees a party that can finally be winners. Brian Topp isn’t ready to sacrifice socialism at the altar of victory. Nathan Cullen would rather be the “conscience of parliament”, that traditional role of the NDP, cooperating earnestly with Liberals and Greens to defeat Stephen Harper. Mr Mulcair basically called Mr Cullen a loser for reinforcing the notion that the NDP can’t form a government; Peggy Nash called Mr Cullen defeatist, insinuating he was disrespecting the achievements of Jack Layton.

Yet, on full display were the three different views of the NDP: the competitor, the true believer and the Boy Scout. All three have followings within the fabric of their Party’s soul. There are likely even more such notions of what it means to be the NDP as well.

The Tories, God knows, have their divisions. Those divides may seem to be tempered and steamrolled by the iron-fisted control of the PMO newspeak and conditioned by the tantalising prospect of winning, yet they still ferment, with some wings of the Party consistently uncomfortable with other wings of the Party. Having now finally won a majority government, it will be interesting to see which strain of the Conservative soul wins out: will it be libertarianism, Red Tory pragmatism, social conservatism or a Reform-minded agenda?

It’s been said that if the Republican party were in a parliamentary system, it would be at least four parties. This observation is shown in the protracted race we see unfolding in Florida: the enterprising, moderate, establishment Mitt Romney; the populist, dogmatic and demaegogic Newt Ginrich; the libertarian isolationist Ron Paul; and the fundamentalist, socially conservative Rick “I hate gays” Santorum.

Political parties do indeed make for strange bedfellows. They are all loose coalitions of commonality and common cause.

Yet, the Liberal Party of Canada is somehow a bit different. We’ve always prided ourselves less on our rigid understanding of what we are and more on our record of how we’ve been what we are. We value our balancing act of tempering left-leaning instincts–the cause of social justice–with fiscal responsibility–the need for economic growth. In a local race in the last election, I insisted on the phrase, “Liberals: the only progressive and responsible choice”.

Dating back to C.D. Howe, Liberals have prided ourselves less on our ideology and more on managerial competence. That’s a great selling point to win elections and form the government but a terrible one in the trenches of opposition.

Bob Rae has been repeating over and over that we aren’t a party of rigid ideologues, that we’re not a closed shop. Our basic instinct will always be liberalism. In that sense, we do have a clear ideology: individual freedom is best achieved in the sustainable prosperity that comes from equality of opportunity.

These aren’t merely buzz words; that sentence is our commitment to Canadians. We are inflexible–and dare I say ideological–about our liberal goal.

We are wonderfully flexible about the means to achieve our goal.

With Don Tapscott as the convention keynote speaker, we heard about how Liberals must reach openly into a vast network of ideas. Being grounded in the basics of liberalism, we want your ideas! The Liberal Party can be the vehicle to advance your idea if it adheres to our liberal goal: that’s been Bob Rae’s message during and since the convention. We have our ideology; help us make our policy, together.

In his Vancouver speech, Rae opened up to the audience and to online communities, asking for ideas. This open process to achieve our liberal goal will be what defines us: a commitment to find, as that old-time liberal Matthew Arnold wrote, “the best which has been thought and said”.

What is the soul of the Liberal Party? It must be the soul of how Canada works. We’re a country of nations, of neighbours who know you help each other dig out of the snow. Sure there is discord and debate. But, as a country, we transcend that and come together. I always loved those Chrétien-era trade missions. They were called Team Canada. We’re a country immersed in the notion of teamwork. The U.S., with its emphasis on individualism and exceptionalism, watches baseball, the one batter against the one pitcher. We watch hockey: the five players working together, defending the goalie, passing the puck. We’re a teamwork country.

An open party that seeks ideas from all Canadians with basic liberal values is a team. Liberal infighting in the past has always been more about personality and individual ambition than any major policy disagreement. With an open means to (eventually) chose our new leader, this interim period is time for Liberals to be liberal by being open to new ideas that advance our goal.

What’s the soul of our party? Team Canada: a party that is open, inquisitive, cooperative; a party that is first and foremost a team.

(Jonathan Scott did a superb job covering the 2012 Liberal  Biennial convention for Ipolitics.ca. Follow him on twitter: @J_Scott_.)

Greg D’Cunha: The Monarchy: The Non-Priority Priority Resolution

Greg D’Cunha (Delegate from Whitby-Oshawa, Ontario.)

On Sunday morning, delegates at the Liberal Biennial Convention voted against Priority Resolution 114 which urged that Parliament “form an all party committee to study the implementation of instituting a Canadian head of state popularly elected and sever formal ties with the British Crown.” The measure, needing only a simple majority to pass, received only about a third of the delegates’ vote.

This decision is being been reported in the media, by some, as a statement by Liberals in support of the monarchy – that we “stand behind” or “vote to keep” ties to the Queen. Now there are certainly a fair number of delegates who voted against the resolution because they are monarchists. However it would be very wrong to claim that is a clear Liberal reaffirmation of the monarchy.  There are many other reasons why voters (such as myself, several delegates I talked to and many that spoke during the debate) opposed this measure that had little to do with our support of the Crown.

First, it is not an important issue compared to things like the economy, the crime bill, health care and a myriad of other issues facing this party and this country. Any injustice and inequality created by the monarchy has limited practical impact on Canadians. This fact differentiates it from other “bold” issues (a term used a lot at this convention) that Liberals have raised such as same-sex marriage, bilingualism and, most recently, marijuana legalization (which is as much about crime and social justice as it is about personal freedoms). The monarchy is very much an issue of principle. This alone is not a good reason to vote against the resolution, but ties in with the next crucial point.

Secondly, and probably most importantly, this is simply not good politics. It is a very divisive issue (as media outlets were quick to point out when the resolution was discovered). It might lose the party votes and it certainly won’t gain it any. Those who are in favour of abolishing the monarchy aren’t going to move towards the Liberals simply because we say we want to have a discussion on the issue. We are in the process of rebuilding our party and we need to focus on issues that affect and will resonate with most Canadians. This is simply not one of them. We need to be uniting the party and the country and this issue will divide it.

Finally, the resolution itself deals with the monarchy in a very poor manner. It states that we should form a non-partisan committee in Parliament to discuss the issue. Does anybody really think that if Mr. Rae, had this passed, asked parliament to form such a committee that he wouldn’t be laughed out of the House of Commons? The Conservatives, fresh off a renewed emphasis on the Crown, have no interest in discussing this matter other than using it as a launching pad for attacks on the Liberals. Even if passed, this would not have gone very far.

In short, opening up the monarchy debate would hurt the rebuilding effort. That’s not to say that we should simply bow to populism and stick to safe stances. But we need to choose our battles. By supporting marijuana legalization and choosing not to open up a debate on the monarchy, that’s exactly what we did.

The vote to defeat policy resolution 114 was not a vote to re-affirm the monarchy. It was a vote not to raise the issue.

Leanne Bourassa: My LPC 2012 Convention experience.

Leanne Bourassa (Former candidate for National Membership Secretary.)

Where to begin? My LPC 2012 Convention experience actually began in November 2011 when I submitted my nomination forms for the National Table Officer position of National Membership Secretary. Most of the people who signed my nomination form didn’t even know about the position of membership secretary, so I was stunned when after the deadline for submitting our nomination papers, I didn’t have just one or two, but FOUR opposing candidates for the job!  WHAT had I gotten myself into?

The next two months were a blur of phone calls, attending events, setting up Facebook pages, drafting emails and flyers, figuring out email blast programs, putting together a fundraiser and thinking about campaign materials. Always questioning whether I was saying and doing the right thing, wondering if so and so is supporting me or not and occasionally dealing with the reality that not everyone thinks I’m wonderful!

 Finally, the big weekend was upon us.  The minute I walked into the convention center the reality of being a candidate hit me and it was daunting. Everything from poster placement and where I needed to be and when, suddenly became vitally important to me and I was afraid of screwing it up.  I was not going to be able to just sit back and enjoy this convention.  I was going to have to work.

 Friday night was the big night for the candidates as we were scheduled to give our speeches to the convention.  Canada Hall is HUGE and seeing it packed to standing room capacity brought home just how seriously the delegates were taking the responsibility of choosing the next table officers.  From the side of the stage, it wasn’t that easy to hear what the candidates were saying and each of us had our own ways of dealing with the stress both before and after our turn on stage. I was quite happy with my performance, especially when my friends told me afterwards that they didn’t know I could “do that”!

 Saturday was probably one of the best days of my life.  After the 7:30am Quebec delegation meeting, I hit the ground running and it didn’t stop until 8:30 pm. I spent an hour or so handing out flyers at the bottom of the escalators and then almost 4 straight hours shaking hands with people in the line up to go and vote.  Every single person I spoke to was pleasant and so many of them were nice enough to say they were voting for me, or that they had heard my speech and thought it was great. I chatted with people from all across the country.  Putting myself in a stranger’s way is far outside of my comfort zone, but it was so worth it. I went to bed that night exhausted, my feet in pain, my throat feeling raw, but completely happy that I had done my job as a candidate.

 In the end, I lost my race, but have never felt more motivated to get to work for the future of the Liberal Party of Canada. I’m still on a high from all the great people I met and knowing that I can put myself out there, do the work and come away from it all feeling elated.  Matthew Certosimo will be a great National Membership Secretary and with the decision to include supporters to our party, he has an enormous challenge ahead of him. I’m very worried about the fact that none of the national table officers are from Quebec, and this is where we need a lot of work to rebuild, but our team here at the LPC(Q) will make sure the National doesn’t forget about us!

Hot or Not: Liberal Biennial Convention Edition (Part 2)

Hot:

Peter Milliken: Canada’s longest-serving Speaker of the House can still silence a room with a stern look or wry turn-of-phrase , which is even more impressed when that room is filled with 3200 Liberal delegates instead of 308 MPS.

Cannabis: With 77% of the vote it looks like the policy motion put forward by the Team BC will ensure that 117 is the new 420.

HRH: By voting down a policy resolution that would replace the Canada monarch the Liberal Party of Canada said “You go girl!” to the Queen.

Stephane Dion: The author of the Clarity Act lit a fire on the convention floor when he spoke in support of a Preferential voting policy resolution. Dion proves that “smart” is the new “sexy.”

Not:

America Style Primaries: Liberals opened the doors to “supporters” voting in the next Liberal Leadership race but said “No/Non” to a staggered voting schedule. This means that “PEI” is not the New “New Hampshire.”

“Points of order”: If you want to debate a point at an inappropriate time, look like a jerk or you just like the sound of your own voice, then you probably tried a point of order. Too bad you don’t understand Roberts’ Rules of Order. Peter Milliken shut down so many fake PofOs that people started saying “Milliken’d” afterwards.

The War on Drugs: In the closing speech of the convention Bob Rae made it clear that  the Liberal Party will be the official party of “evidence based policy.” He declared loudly and proudly: “Let’s face up to it Canada: the war on drugs has been a complete bust!”

Biennial Convention Guest Post: The Liberal Identity: Hard work, Progressive policies & Unfettered inclusiveness.

Micah Goldberg (Delegate from Winnipeg, Manitoba.)

The Liberal Convention held in Ottawa was supposedly a three-day convention aimed at rebuilding the party brand and picking up the mess from May 2nd 2011. There are many highlights over the past three days: the newly minted “supporters” category and their right to vote in leadership races, the party’s endorsement of legalizing marijuana, the powerful, invigorating speeches made by two likely leadership hopefuls (Bob Rae & Dalton McGuinty), Mike Crawly’s victory, the defense of the monarchy. The list goes on.

There are two moments I will remember as being the most inspirational and important. The first was a speech given by Senator Terry Mercer. While most Young Liberals who woke up early on Friday morning are more likely to remember speeches given by John Turner or Justin Trudeau, I believe Senator Mercer gave a rousing speech to the younger delegates, explaining why he believes supporting Canada’s youth is critical for the health of our democracy, as well as our country’s welfare as a whole. What truly drew me to Mercer’s speech was his advocacy for a debate on merger with the Liberals’ perceived adversaries on the left. I happen to believe that so long as Canada is using a First-Past-the-Post system, a merger between the Liberals and New Democrats ought to be pursued. To hear a Senator advocating for a discussion, however unpopular the position, was encouraging and I can only hope there are more of us who feel the same way.

Secondly while I find blind partisanship frustrating and burdensome to the political process, seeing the unrelenting pride of delegates and their Liberal ideals is something that I found uplifting. On Saturday night in Canada Hall, some 1300 delegates were committed to voting all night on constitutional amendments. This was a demonstration of democracy at its pinnacle, the kind of beautiful experience Voltaire wrote verses on ferociously supporting. The commitment to the democratic process revealed by those delegates, that debates ought to yield the right answer, no matter the length of time required to find it, is what Canada can use much more of. To see it in action gives me hope and lifts my heart.

There were also some disappointments this weekend. Delegates allowed the Liberal leader to continue bucking members’ wishes through appointments, and upheld leadership veto power over policy. The primary proposal which will make races far more exciting and increases media coverage was shot down mainly due to confusion over what the process would look like. The number of youth delegates I met that didn’t seem to know why they were in the Liberal Party was far too high, along with the number that had personal ascension to power their number one priority.

That being said, Liberal delegates by and large left Ottawa with a renewed sense of purpose and in that sense, the convention can be seen as successful. Based solely on speeches I heard this weekend, the Liberal identity is grounded in hard work, progressive policies and unfettered inclusiveness. I was able to meet so many fascinating people, and I look forward to the next opportunity. Here’s to the 2013 leadership convention and all its memories, disappointments, lessons and encouragements.

Biennial Convention Guest Post: Barrie Young Liberals: Looking to the future while giving back.

The Barrie Young Liberals (BYL) formed shortly after the federal election in May, 2011. The election was a disappointing result, to be sure; perhaps, no more so than in Barrie where the Liberal candidate came third to the Conservative incumbent and a New Democratic newcomer.

Notwithstanding that, however, federal Liberal members Bradley Stewart and Alex Bushell set the groundwork for a vibrant and engaged youth association. During the October, 2011 Ontario provincial election, Young Liberal members Adam Exton and others also joined the association in order to help reenergize liberalism in Barrie.

Since October, the BYL have attempted to maintain a prominent community and online presence. The BYL are committed to community engagement and public service. The BYL have teamed up with the Salvation Army Bayside Mission to serve monthly dinners to the needy (http://www.thebarrieexaminer.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3399831).

Furthermore, the association is currently engaged in a care-package drive for the David Busby Centre (http://www.busbycentre.ca/
). Moving forward, the association is in the initial planning stages of working with Youth Haven Barrie (http://www.youthhavenbarrie.com/) and The Big Brothers
and Big Sisters of Canada (http://www.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/en/Home/default.aspx).

For Young Liberal associations to thrive, it is essential that they maintain a community-based approach complimented by aggressive social media penetration. Local media in Barrie have been keenly interested in the BYL’s community efforts as the Barrie Advance recently published a front-page feature on the association
(http://www.simcoe.com/news/article/1276337–young-liberals-look-to-future).

Moving forward, as long as the BYL—and other associations like it—remember their liberal values and continue to give back while looking forward, surely they cannot help but succeed.

(Guest Post by Adam Exton.)